The search has resumed for Joel Campora, an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife officer, and an unidentified women who went missing Friday (May 31) during severe flooding in the Y City area of Scott County, after heavy rain forced the search to stop earlier Saturday.
12 teams have been formed to search the land around the swollen Fourche River, Sebastian County Investigation Phillip Pevehouse said in an update on the Sheriff’s Department Facebook page Saturday around noon. K-9’s have been brought in to help with the search effort.
Boats are on standby to assist with the search, but they will not be deployed until river conditions allow, Pevehouse said. Aircrafts are also on standby. Pevehouse said a Blackhawk helicopter, provided by the Arkansas National Guard, will be deployed as conditions permit.
Heavy equipment, such as back-hoes and bulldozers have also been brought in to begin searching piles of debris, Pevehouse said.
“Area bridges have (been) assigned monitors to visually keep watch on the downstream flow,” Pevehouse said on Facebook.
According to the Sheriff’s Department Facebook page, Scott County residents are providing support to the search efforts providing law enforcement with food and drinks. Red Cross Arkansas chapter is also on scene.
The search was delayed early Saturday more (June 1) as rain continued to pour in Scott County. Pevehouse said conditions were unsafe for searching for the missing at the time.
“Fort Smith Fire Department Swift Water Rescue Unit, Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office, and the Scott County Road Department have been deployed in rescue operations for stranded motorist,” Pevehouse said. “This area is about 20 miles from the Y City area.”
Officials said they believe Wildlife Officer Campora was with Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter attempting to rescue two stranded women when high waters became too much.
Sheriff Carpenter’s body was found early Friday morning about a mile downstream from a home where they received a 911 call about rising waters, according Hollenbeck.
Saturday, a property owner found the body of a white female on his land about a half-mile south of the Fourche River Bridge and called 911 at approximately 3:30 p.m., said an official with the Sebastian County Sheriff’s office.
Authorities are not releasing the identity of the woman.
More than 100 officials searched the flood waters and swollen (Fourche) river
Campora’s boat was also found Friday afternoon. Hollenbeck said there is still hope, even though Campora’s status is undetermined.
“He was the epitome of what a wildlife officer should be and he was doing what he was trained to do last night,” said Mike Knoedl with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Officials believe Campora and Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter were working together on rescue efforts as storms moved in overnight.
“As they approached the residence, they noticed that flooding waters were rising rapidly and other deputies on scene heard a loud crash,” Hollenbeck said.
Hollenbeck said the house imploded due to rising flood waters in Mill Creek.
Sebastian County search and rescue crews, Logan County search and rescue crews, Arkansas Game and Fish, Arkansas State Police, area police and deputies are assisting in the search for Campora and the other missing woman in the Y City area.
Early Friday, Scott County Judge James Forbes said the woman missing is believed to be the women who was in the home that Sheriff Carpenter and Campora attempted to respond to.
Lt. Col. Keith Moore with the Arkansas National Guard said a Blackhawk helicopter was deployed around 8 a.m. from Robinson Air Force Base in North Little Rock to Scott County to assist in the rescue mission.
Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck, whose office is helping with rescue efforts, said Friday during an afternoon news conference that the body of one woman was found in her car. She has not been identified.
Friday evening, Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department officials announced Highway 28 is closed to traffic from Parks to the Yell County line. Highways 270 and 71 were reopened to traffic near Y City earlier that afternoon.
Eyewitnesses said families have been displaced and Scott County dispatchers said swift water rescues have taken place throughout the night.